Most of the time, interviews at the entry- and mid-level involve a straightforward list of questions that candidates can answer by speaking the simple truth. Classic interview questions are classic for a reason: they provide reviewers with meaningful information and offer a jumping-off point for an organic conversation. These classics include questions like “how would you say your last job prepared you for this kind of work?” and “how would you describe your approach to conflict in the workplace?”
But some interviewers are starting to view these questions as clichés, and these employers are looking for ways to gain the same valuable information using questions that are quirkier, more original, and harder for candidates to anticipate. What happens when your prepared, rehearsed answers aren’t necessary, because your interviewers are asking you only one question, and it’s a question like “how do you eat an Oreo?” or “can you give me instructions on how to use a seatbelt?”
We divided some of these oddball questions into categories, and though you can’t predict and prepare for questions like these, this breakdown may help you stay on your feet.
“How many slices of pizza have been sold in the United States this past year?”
“How much should one jelly bean cost?”
“How many number two pencils could fit inside the Ohio State football stadium?”
Employers aren’t looking for a single correct answer to a question in this category. They just want to hear how you would approach this issue and what steps you might take to find a solution. You can start by talking about calculating weights, volumes, and costs per unit, or you can start by discussing who you would call to handle this task and how you would engage their help.
Practical Problem Solving
“How would you get to the top of the Empire State Building with only some glue, string, and a broken cell phone?”
“How do you build a bicycle?”
“How would the use of scissors benefit a pizza delivery service?”
Again, there’s no way to get this question right or hand over the single correct answer that your reviewers expect. Just don’t freeze up. Take a deep breath, think for a few seconds, and then talk your way toward the best solution as you see it.
“How do I make a peanut butter sandwich?”
“Why do volcanoes happen?”
“What were the first five things you did when you woke up this morning?”
These simple questions aren’t designed to test your knowledge of sandwiches or volcanoes—they’re meant to determine how well you explain and communicate simple facts or instructions.
“What crayon color would you be?”
“What three items would you take to a desert island?”
“What’s your favorite cartoon character and why?”
If these questions amuse you, go ahead and laugh. Your reviewers thought carefully to come up with silly questions that might encourage you to reveal your sense of humor.
But when you’re finished laughing, answer honestly. And if you feel baited or embarrassed by these questions and find them irrelevant to the job, that’s okay. Just smile and ask what your reviewers would really like to know about your personality, so you can just tell them.
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